Tag Archive: Casanova


Giacomo Casanova

It is curious to note that, in spite of excesses of all kinds, Giacomo Casanova always attaches great importance to his health.  We know that he is a Colossus with uncommon strength and physical health.  But as soon as he feels tired, he rests for a long time, fasts and then follows a diet.  It is his commonsense recipes that cure the Duchess of Chartres, who is just as much a victim of the burlesque treatments of the medicine of the time, than of the food commonly eaten in good society, which was particularly rich in sugar, meat, and various excitants such as teas, chocolates, coffees and spices.

However, he is careful not to say that it is the diet that triumphs over the dreadful pimples of the duchess.  He says that it is the Kabbala which supplied the secrets of healing.  In this way, his prestige as an occasional doctor is reinforced by that of magician.

***

Casanova uses the name of the Kabbala to trick people.  Numbers are asked to reveal the future, but only by the following trick:  his dupes ask him a question which he then addresses to the “spirit” who inspires him.  He starts by translating the letters of the question into numbers:  A = 1; C = 3; M = 13, etc.  Then he arranges these numbers in the form of a pyramid.  It is at this moment of the operation that the ruse becomes particularly transparent.  He asks the person to choose a certain number in the third line of the pyramid and to multiply it or to add it to another in the sixth.

As he knows the letter which corresponds to a given number, he is able to ask the question and provoke the suitable reply.  This process is rather stupidly transparent but it succeeds, because the victim is absorbed in his calculations, which Casanova complicates as much as he wants by introducing extra “keys” like zeros or double columns.  So, from start to finish of the “magical” operation, the dupe is guided by Casanova, who is, however, endowed with a marvellous agility of mind, of serious mathematical knowledge, and a lot of cheek.

But, as always with Casanova, truth and lies are tightly intertwined, and it is not certain that he didn’t believe in the supernatural virtues of his Kabbala.  We see this when, not long before his death, disabused with everything and having no further motive for cheating, he continues to affirm in a letter to Madame Eva Frank that his method is both rational and supernatural and that it gives him the gift of prophecy.

***

One constant thing about Casanova is that he never acts badly with his women, and he is never brutal.  He obtains pleasure and profit from them, but, in the end, he does them more good than bad.

A young English girl emphatically refuses his advances.  Her name is Justinienne Wyne.  She tells him that she is pregnant, and she wants him to magically abort the pregnancy.  He makes her believe that he possesses a Paracelsus powder, but that this powder must be placed in the maternity passage, in the way that can be imagined.  He prescribes three doses per day for five days, of a medication which can also be imagined.  These pleasures distract the young lady from the abortion, and she will give birth secretly in a convent, will later make a rich marriage, and at the end of her life, will write treatises on morality.

***

Casanova’s predictions greatly contribute to his celebrity.  He has a lot of intuition and psychology, which allows him to take calculated risks.  For example, when he makes that extraordinary prediction to Mademoiselle Roman, he uses a process which has already brought him success.

Louis le Bien-Aime makes a fairly big consumption of pretty young women.  And not only marquises.  A few years before, Casanova had already succeeded in throwing into the royal bed “a little kitchen maid”, lovely, aged fifteen, named Louison O’Morphi.  He had the nymphette painted naked, in a pornographic posture, and had the little painting introduced into the royal entourage, thanks to one of his friends who was a lawyer.  It is on a “catalogue” of this kind that Louis XV makes his choices.

The enterprise perfectly succeeded because O’Morphi reigned for three years over the Parc aux Cerfs.  The poor thing fell into disgrace after a disloyal manoeuvre on the part of a courtisan, who told her to ask the king how he treated his old wife.  Thinking she was invincible, she asked the king the question.  He glared at her, and never saw her again.

The brilliant prophecy about the destiny of Mademoiselle Roman can therefore be explained by rational deduction.  What is more difficult is to announce that she would have a son who would bear the Bourbon name.  This is where our gambler gambles.  He has the gift of a sort of sixth sense which he seems to possess in the highest degree, founded in part on his experience, his intelligence and the unlimited confidence that he places in himself.

***

 

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Casanova – part 6

Giacomo Casanova

Giacomo writes on the frontispiece of his Memoires, the Latin words:  “Fata viam inveniunt”  [“Destiny finds its way”].  For him, destiny ends amongst the 40,000 books of a faraway Bohemian castle.  Right to the end, he will have protectors who appreciate his way with words, his culture and his spells.  The sweetness of a few former mistresses who have not forgotten and will write to him, too.

And, he will remember.  His will be the most prodigious of stories.  Relatively recent work has shown the authenticity of certain details which had previously been contested, and everyone agrees that the Memoires are a capital piece in the decisive comprehension of the History of men.

So, was Casanova a fiction writer, an historian, or a magician?  He was probably all of these things, and more.  He was a friend, a companion, and a magician who only really becomes one at the end of his Memoires; “a magician from the other side of the grave” as G. Bauer puts it.

***

Is his story true?  Casanova has had a lot written about him, and all of his biographers have been careful to verify the things that he says.  In all of the Chancelleries of Europe, and in a number of public and private archives, there is an almost unending mass of documents concerning the Venitian’s life.  A lot of these documents have been compiled and examined very closely.  There are very few flagrant inexactitudes or inventions.  There are a few exaggerations, some errors in dates, and some “embellishments”, which are compatible with the romanesque nature of the hero.

***

There are fervent Casanovians who place their hero’s literary accomplishments above those of Stendhal.  Stefan Zweig, the admirable biographer of Mary Stuart and Marie-Antoinette, says of the Venitian that he is “an unique success in universal literature, who has surpassed all of the great Italian writers, since Dante and Boccace…”  His admirers have given this place to Casanova because of his gift for evoking life and imposing on the reader, whatever his degree of culture, a sort of irresistible presence, which is truly magic.

Written in French, the Memoires alone would have been sufficient for his renown.  But he also wrote a lot of other works, notably the troubling Icosameron or Histoire d’Edouard et d’Elisabeth qui passerent quatre-vingt-un ans chez les Megamicres, habitants aborigenes du Protocosme dans l’interieur de notre globe.  This enormous book is much more difficult to understand than the Memoires.  It is a synthesis of Jules Verne, of Robida, and of Wells, and is in all points a successful ancestor of our science-fiction books.  Above all, it shows the author’s very serious and wide knowledge of the state of science at his epoch.

***

Casanova cites around one hundred and twenty-two feminine conquests in thirty-nine years.  This is not at all exaggerated for a man of his physique and intelligence.  Without counting his celebrity, which facilitated his enterprises.  It is certain that his conquests would have been even more numerous if he hadn’t often been so fussy.  He did sometimes jump at the first one to pass, but in a lot of cases, he took senseless risks to conquer a woman.  He went as far as financial ruin, and used gentleness, gallantry and perseverance, which are completely unknown to today’s seductors.

***

Casanova was born into a family of artists, and will never deny his origins.  He pretended to be the son of Michel Grimani to venge himself for an insult inflicted on him by this Venitian patrician.  That his younger brother, Francois, was the bastard of George III seems just as contestable.  At least, we have no proof of this illustrious paternity.  The Casanovas were born poor, and Giacomo will die poor.

***

At 15, Casanova took one of the few paths that an adolescent with no money, no nobility and no protector could take:  that of ecclesiastic.  He took to the pulpit in his native parish of Saint-Samuel in Venice.  He was a success, and the curate asked him to do a panegyric for the festival of Saint Joseph, on 19 March 1741.  Too confident, he prepared the grand lines of his sermon, and thought he could improvise it.  He had a good meal, washed down with copious quantities of wine, just before mounting to the pulpit, and of course rapidly lost track of what he was saying.  The church was packed, and the faithful started to laugh, or to leave.  Casanova did the only thing left to do:  he pretended to faint.

***

He also studied Law.  Everyone said that he had almost universal culture.  The Prince de Ligne, who was certainly not naive, assures us that he was “a well of science”.  The greatest monarchs of the century, Catherine II, Frederic of Prussia, the King of Poland, ask him for advice, or for information.  Voltaire houses him for three days, and revises in depth some of his views on Italian literature.

The reason that he didn’t continue with Law after his doctorate, was because there were already too many lawyers (around 250 of them) in Venice, most of whom had trouble making a living.  His taste for women and his frankness were too pronounced for him to hope for a career in the Church.  As for the sabre, he tried, but in spite of the dispositions which he showed, when it came time for a promotion, a young patrician was preferred over him.

The only other thing that he could do to make money rapidly was to gamble.  He tried, and failed.  So, he was reduced to “begging” in an improvised orchestra.

***

Casanova only has some success when he meets his first protector.  He is in the palace of the very rich Giovanni Bragadin.  The doctor who is caring for him leaves in the middle of the night, and two very alarmed friends, the nobles Dandolo and Barbero, arrive.  They try to get rid of him.  He refuses to leave.  He says that, if he leaves, Bragadin won’t recover.  He is right.  Using only his good sense and a bit of experience gleaned in military hospitals, he removes the cataplasm which is suffocating the patient.

To be continued.

Giacomo Casanova

Giacomo Casanova uses the Kabbala, horoscopes, medecine and all sorts of divinations to earn money.  Because the Century of Light, of rationalism, and of atheism remains strangely sensitive to the irrational, and to superstitions.

The Kabbala, which only needs a bit of mental agility, and in no way requires the intervention of infernal powers, will have him hunted out of Venice.  In Europe, and particularly in France, it will give him bloated glory in the domains of prophecy in society and salon divination.  Madame d’Urfe gives him her unlimited confidence for the realisation of her life’s dream:  hypostasis or transplantation of her soul into the body of a young boy.

The strangest thing about all this is that our magician is often so amazed at the result of his predictions, due only to hazard, astuce and cheek, that he is often ready to believe himself to be a real magician.  Thanks to his false Kabbala, he makes a prophecy to Prince Medini, which is received by him with sarcasm.  The young Dalmatian even provokes Casanova to a duel.  Casanova pierces his shoulder with his sword, and announces that he will not return from England.  A prophecy which comes true because, ten years later, the prince will die in a London gaol.

Cagliostro was told that Rome would witness his death.  And Cagliostro will end his days in a prison of the Holy See.

But he does even better:  during a stay in Grenoble, he makes the acquaintance of a good middle-class family, the Morins.  They have a niece, Anne Roman, as ravishing as she is virtuous.  The seductor tries all of his tricks, spends enormous amounts of money on balls and gifts.  She resists.

To impress her, he does her horoscope which announces that she will become the mistress of Louis XV, and that she will have a son who will become a prince.  The Morins are wild with joy at this marvellous prediction.  Casanova adds that it will only come true if Anne goes to Paris before the age of eighteen.  She is almost eighteen, and Giacomo will be happy to accompany her.

But she will go to Paris with her chaperon and will reside with her sister.  By a string of extraordinary circumstances, the young lady is presented to the King at Versailles, lodged at Passy, and not in the Parc aux Cerfs like the rest of the royal harem, becomes a mother and a baronness and, even more remarkable, the King accepts that the child be baptised with the mention “Son of Louis Bourbon”.

Kabbala divination is of course not responsible.  But this piece of luck is sufficiently mysterious to give Giacomo even more assurance and confidence in himself.  He needs a lot of it to heal the acne of the Duchess de Chartres, mother of the future Louis-Philippe, who convokes Casanova to the Palais-Royal to hear his oracles.  She is twenty-six years old, lives an agitated life, has a pretty face, but it it constellated with pimples, which discourage the best French doctors.  The fake oracles prescribe, for three hours, a detailed diet.  At the end of a week, the devouring acne of the charming duchess is perfectly healed.

It is uncontestable that he possesses an innate occult gift which he develops through contact with his numerous frequentations.  When one of his prophecies comes true, he appears astonished, and seized with superstitious fear.  It doesn’t last because he is above all a sceptic, an agnostic, a materialist.  It is for this reason that he shows a lot of disdain for all kinds of magicians, including Cagliostro and the Count of Saint-Germain, who make him laugh.

Throughout his life, people keep wondering how it will all finish.  It finishes with Venice, at the end of the XVIIIth Century, when the Most Serene ceases to be free, after more than a thousand years of political and artistic supremacy.  It is a year, almost to the day, after the dissolution in 1797 of the Grand Council, which will put an end to the free Republic, that Casanova, librarian of the Count de Waldstein, dies at Dux Castle, in Bohemia.

But his real death was long before.  It dates from a visit to London in 1763 when, at 38, he is ridiculed by a courtisan of unequalled skill and perversity:  La Charpillon.  She comes from Switzerland and, at 17, it can already be said that she is a beautiful, ageing animal, with a pedigree rich in three generations of gallantry.  He, the experienced seductor, the sexual predator, falls in adoration before her and treats her like a young fiance, in love for the first time.  He says of this abominable tart:

“Her face, sweet and open, indicated a soul that delicacy of sentiments distinguished by that air of nobility which, ordinarily, depends on birth”.

She will treat him so badly with false promises, blackmail and diverse infidelities, that one day, he goes to her place to break everything.  She becomes ill because of it and her mother says she is dying.  Our hero, full of remorse, seriously considers suicide.  That same evening, he catches sight of her at a public ball wearing a dress that he has just given her.  He feels so excessively ridiculous, that it breaks the spell.  He will get his own back by teaching a parrot, which he later sells back to the merchant who sold it to him, the phrase:

“Miss Charpillon is a greater whore than her mother”.

The whole of London gossips about this wise bird.  Giacomo has his revenge, but something in him is irremediably broken.  Is he feeling old?  Does he realise the vanity of all these love affairs accumulated over twenty-five years and which are no more than “ashes in the wind”?  All his biographers agree that after this stay in London, he is not the same man.  Almost nothing will succeed for him, because he no longer has confidence in himself.  And what is a magician without confidence?

To be continued.

Casanova – part 4

Giacomo Casanova

If Giacomo Casanova is always ready to separate a fool from his money, he often does it to endow poor young girls.  Or, of course, to dilapidate it with a beautiful woman.  Few tales of misery leave him cold.  Few pretty faces either.  Whatever the dangers he must face:  rivals, husbands, police from the Holy Office…

The ladies will be his only real weakness because, for them, he puts up with the inconvenience of all the others.  All, except one:  to tie his destiny definitively to only one woman.  We can see this with Henrietta, that mysterious woman, full of charm and wit with whom he falls in love, as soon as he leaves the little Javotte.  Disguised as a man, she is fleeing an abusive husband, and pours waves of pure love into Giacomo’s heart, over a period of three months.  She will leave, like all the others, without too much sadness, for she understands, like all those who have forgiven him his infidelities, that he is a man of an instant.

She senses that, even if the instant lasts, if it gives incomparable voluptuousness, it dies from the need of the freedom that our hero appears to love sometimes more than life.  As it happens, it is to reconquer his liberty that he achieves a “first”, absolutely unique in the history of Venice prisons.

In 1756, he manages to escape from the “leads”, the terrifying gaols which are just beside the Venice ducal palace.  Party boy, free thinker, swindler, magician, but, above all, plebian, Casanova, in spite of his protectors, was unable to durably escape the Grand Inquisitor, always ready to close his eyes, on the other hand, on the indiscretions of the patricians.

His unlimited light-heartedness does not frustrate him, either, of a rapid fortune which he picks up in Paris, where, as in other European capitals, his flight has made him famous.  He hopes one day to return to Venice, his country, and never leave it again.  He will return, but at the price of his honour.  For, to obtain his pardon, he is left no other choice but to become an informer.  Before being chased away again at the age of fifty-eight, definitively this time.

For the moment, here he is “in this Paris, unique in the world”, determined to catch up on the fifteen months spent under the “leads”.  He arrives, in fact, on the day that Damien tries to assassinate Louis XV.  From an open carriage, he witnesses the end of the regicide, horribly executed on the Place de Greve.  A couple seated opposite him does not share his repugnance.  On the contrary, the spectacle seems to excite them a lot, as their gestures indicate.  Giacomo is learning more and more about strange human nature, and its secret workings.

He, the man with no fortune and no talent, is in great need of protectors.  He goes to Monsieur de Bernis, former French Ambassador to Venice.  The gentleman is happy to help him, in memory of the very particular parties organised for him by the seductor in Venice.  He presents him to the famous financier Paris-Duverney “one of the best heads in France”.  This gentleman needs 20 million to finish the construction of the Ecole Militaire, a project that is greatly encouraged by Madame de Pompadour.

Armed with the agility of his mind, used to rapid calculations, and remembering that he had been a banker in different gambling houses in Venice, Casanova announces that he has a project which could bring one hundred million into the royal purse every year.  Duverney is not an idiot.  He has saved France from the bankruptcy into which Law had plunged it a few decades before.  He says that he knows what Casanova is thinking, and is impressed by his assurance.

Invited to dinner in the company of financiers, Duverney presents him to a certain Calsabigi, author, with his brothers, of a lottery project.  He hands him the notebook in which he has written down the principles of his game and Casanova, without blinking, says that, indeed, that was his own project.  Duverney thinks that the system is good, but wants to know how to constitute a sum to convince people to play and, possibly, win.  Casanova says that that is child’s play.  It only needs a decree from the Royal Council.  The nation needs to know that the King is able to pay one hundred million.  Duverney finds the sum rather large.  Casanova insists that it must dazzle.

The financiers present at the meeting with Duverney think about it for a few days but, faithful to a tactic which had many times succeeded for him with women, Giacomo pretends not to be in a hurry.  Meanwhile he assimilates the principles of the discovery of the Calsabigi brothers, whose only fault is not to have enough cheek to impose their system.  They beg him to accept an association.  Casanova makes them beg for a long time

“for the powerful reason that I couldn’t do it without them”,

he says with cynical amusement.

In three hours, the next day, he demonstrates brilliantly the qualities and the safety of this lottery, even convincing d’Alembert, who has taken a seat at the conference to judge the project.  Casanova then obtains a pension on the lottery and the right to exploit six receiving offices.  He writes:

“In all the houses where I went and in theatre foyers, everyone gave me money, begging me to play for them, as I wanted to, because they understood nothing!  Paris is a city where everything is judged on appearance.  There is no country in the world where it is easier to impose oneself!”

He then has a fortune.  He will lose it in 2 years through imprudence.  He launches himself into the silk industry without having done a “market study”, as we say today.  For workers, he only employs beauties, which he uses, and continues to pay for their needs, even when they have ceased to please him.  Ruined, he swears never to try to earn his living honestly again.

To be continued.

Casanova – part 3

Giacomo Casanova

The following day,  Giacomo Casanova arrives at the old man’s house with the sheath of the knife used by Saint Peter to cut off Malek’s ear, when he came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Olives.  He had made it overnight from an old shoe-sole that he had boiled.  The old man admires it and accepts to pay him one thousand Roman ecus, after they have found the treasure.

At Cesena, Giacomo and his friend Capitani are warmly welcomed by the rich peasant Franzia, who sees Casanova as a distinguished magician.  Casanova has his eyes fixed on Javotte, the family’s eldest daughter.  She is fourteen with quite a good figure.  He recites:

“In the night of the full moon, a wise philosopher will be able to raise the treasure to the ground’s surface while standing in the great circle”.

He starts by setting his conditions, among which is the acquisition of one hundred new candles by the farmer, along with three torches, some Saint-Jeveze wine and the supplying of a virgin of fourteen to eighteen years old, who can keep a secret, so that the Holy Inquisition does not stick its nose in this business.  The farmer soon proposes Javotte, which fully satisfies Casanova.  He then goes about a lot of complicated preparations:  diverse ablutions by all of the family; a new list of objects to be bought:  thirty aunes [1 aune = 120 cms approx.] of white canvas, storax, camphor, myrrh, sulphur and an olive branch one-and-a-half feet long.

He then orders that a bath be placed in his antechamber where Javotte is to lie down and wash herself completely before each meal.  He begins by making the whole family take a bath, and by the time he gets to Javotte, her father is sleeping soundly, gorged on Saint-Jeveze wine.  Casanova subjects the young girl to many ablutions

“in all directions and in all postures”

and appreciates her docility.  He writes:

“I got her out of the bath and, being obliged to dry her in all positions, I was very close to forgetting Magic to deliver myself up to Nature, but Nature, much faster to act, having relieved itself on its own, I was able to finish this scene without touching the end of the play!”

that is to say, her virginity.

Javotte greatly appreciates these intimacies over all of the following days, and spends the rest of her time sewing the robe which is to serve in the final ceremony.  As well as a crown, on which Casanova, himself, paints

“frightening figures and characters”.

He also proposes that they sleep together, which she accepts with enthusiasm.  Casanova more or less respects her virginity, for he obscurely believes that it is necessary for the rest of his action.  He starts by conjuring up the spirits which are now manifesting themselves underneath the house.  At regular intervals, enormous blows echo, while doors bang and disturbing shadows wander around in the courtyard.  Our hero is quick to explain:

“Those are the spirits who protect the treasure”.

When at last the crucial moment arrives, he asks Javotte to be ready at midnight “ready for anything”.  He dresses in the robe sewn by Javotte, asks Franzia to hide on the balcony and, his crown on his head, and the famous knife in his hand, jumps inside the magic circle that he has just drawn while making false invocations.  He crouches down under his robe, and then, almost immediately, a terrible storm erupts.

Lightning strikes to the left, then to the right, the thunder is deafening, and our man, who is trembling with cold and fear, starts to believe in the Satanic virtues of his theatrical staging.  Driving rain pours down, which reassures him a bit, but his fear has been so strong that he swears to leave the next day, leaving Javotte her virginity.  Persuaded that she is protected by Heaven and that if he dares to take it from her, he will immediately succumb to a terrible death.

He gently consoles Javotte who would have been quite willing to cross that Rubicon, and swindles another thousand ecus from Capitani for the price of the sheath.  Capitani finds this deal very advantageous.  Casanova finds the following moral in this story:

“I understood how easy it must have been for the ancient pagan priests to abuse the credulity of an ignorant Humanity”.

He is aged twenty-three at the time.  He has about the same number of years yet to live.  Not because he dies before he’s fifty, but because physical decline announces itself and his wandering road stretches endlessly before him,

“everything will be only sadness”

as he writes in his Memoires.  For another quarter of a century, he will cultivate his astonishing dispositions for an easy, fast and wealthy life.  At the end of his life, he will write:

“Happy the men who, to profit from life, have no need of hope nor of foresight.”

For the moment, the most senseless hopes drive him forward, and the downfalls due to his lack of foresight, which is, with inconstancy, the dominant trait of his character, appear to stimulate his extraordinary appetite for life.

Let us try to look inside the heart of this unusual person.  His heart and his body, for no-one has better succeeded in the synthesis of the mind and the body necessary for the fragile alchemy of happiness.  He submits his body to hard work, putting it in situations where his very particular sensitivity is delected.  He says:

“Enjoyment is only great in proportion to the privations you suffer.”

Hard on himself, he is also hard on naive people whom he is always ready to swindle to teach them a lesson.  He is after all the money he can get, of course, because women are deaf to the appeals of the poor.  But he is also very generous.

To be continued.

Giacomo Casanova

One evening, leaving the Soranzo Palace after a marriage, carrying his violin, Giacomo Casanova picks up a letter that a Senator in a red robe had just dropped.  He gives it back to him, and to reward him, the Senator takes him home in a gondola.

Casanova is twenty-one years old.  This is a piece of decisive luck for him, which will durably mark his destiny.  The Senator is Bragadin, a Venitian famous for his eloquence and his Statesman qualities.

During the trip home, Bragadin suddenly collapses onto the bottom of the gondola.  He complains about his back, his arm is becoming numb, classical symptoms of an infarctus of the myocardium, which is called at this epoch, apoplexia.

Without panicking, Giacomo leaps out of the gondola, gets a surgeon out of bed, and obliges him to follow him.  Bragadin is bled, spread with mercury and weighed down with a cataplasm which would have surely suffocated him if Casanova hadn’t been there.  The illustrious patient comes through the ordeal, and our young man goes from violinist to the Bragadins’ family doctor.  Luckily, he doesn’t have to do anything else, which allows him to enchant his host with his stories, his knowledge, true or invented, and his dispositions for the occult sciences.

Bragadin finds that he has so much knowledge that he suspects him of getting his science from some supernatural souce.  Casanova ends up telling him that their meeting was not by chance, that it is due to the revelations of an oracle.  Thanks to an arithmetical procedure, he says that he is capable of answering all sorts of questions, and his answers could not be made by any other person in the world but himself.  He says:

“It is a hermit who taught me this calculation.  But if I communicated it to you, I would die within three days.”

As he is not in a hurry to lose such an agreeable friend, Bragadin and his two best friends, Dandolo and Barbaro, exhort him not to reveal it.  They content themselves with asking all sorts of questions that Casanova transforms into a numbered language.  Decrypted, this language delivers rather confused answers which everyone finds divine.  Soon, the four men estime each other to the point of swearing eternal brotherhood.  Bragadin goes even further and, before disappearing, makes this speech to our hero:

“Whoever you are, I owe you my life.  Your protectors, who wanted to make you a priest, doctor, lawyer, soldier, and violinist, were only fools who didn’t know you.  It is God who ordered your angel to lead you into my arms.  I have known you, I know how to appreciate you:  if you want to be my son, you only have to recognize me as your father, and from then on, in my house, I would treat you as such until my death.”

Very touched by this faith in him, Casanova immediately starts gambling again.  He leaves for Milano and Mantua with a well-filled purse.  This trip appears necessary to him after a complaint was laid against him for a tomb violation.  To play a joke on a man who had ridiculed him, he had cut off a dead man’s arm and inflicted such fear on his persecutor that the man lost his mind.

In Mantua, the lure of easy money pushes him to his first real swindle.  A new friend takes him to his parents’ home to show him their “natural history cabinet”.  He discovers a pile of Cabalistic objects of the worst taste and of no value.  His friend’s father shows him a rusty knife which has a strange form, and assures him that it is the same one that Saint Peter used to cut off Malek’s ear, when he came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Olives.  Smothering his laughter, Casanova exclaims:

“You possess this knife and you aren’t a millionaire?”

The old man wants to know more.  Casanova tells him that it is a magic knife, and that the Pope was sure to make his son a Cardinal to obtain it.  He explains to him that the knife permits the discovery of all of the treasures hidden in the lands owned by the Church, on condition, of course that you also possessed the sheath.  Hadn’t God said to Saint Peter:

Mitte gladium tuum in vaginam.”?

Luckily, Casanova knows the owner of the sheath.  It would cost one thousand sequins.  His friend’s father suggests that, as he has the knife, and Casanova knows the owner of the sheath, they could find the treasures together, and share them.  Casanova assures him that that wouldn’t work:  it has to be the same person who owns both the knife and the sheath.  The gentleman wants to know who will give him the thousand sequins to buy the sheath.  Casanova says that he will.  He also volunteers to give them to the magician in charge of the operation.  They agree to meet the next day to eat a plate of macaroni.

During the dinner, the son takes a letter from his pocket.  In the letter, it is written that a very rich man living in the Pope’s States is persuaded that he has a treasure in his cellar.  During the reading of this letter, our hero manages to read the name of the village where this person lives:  Cesena.  He then organizes his mathematical “oracle” which reveals that the treasure is buried near the Rubicon.

The father grabs a dictionary and is able to read that the Rubicon passes at Cesena.  Father and son are instantly convinced of his divination skills.  Casanova explains that he is the magician and, if they want to share the treasure, they should start by giving him five hundred sequins.

Of course, the old man refuses, in spite of the menace of seeing appear at his home at midnight an “elementary spirit”, paid by Casanova, who would take away the knife.  He tells Casanova that he will discuss it when he has seen the sheath.

To be continued.

Casanova

Giacomo Casanova

Giacomo Casanova was born in Venice on 2 April 1725, Easter Day.  He is the son of an untalented actor, but will pass himself off as the bastard son of one of the Most Serene Republic’s highest patricians, Sebastien Grimani.

His mother, Zanetta, has more talent than his father.  Her son later says of her that she was a

“perfect beauty at the age of sixteen”.

She shines on stages all over Europe and, if we can believe Giacomo, she brings a bastard back from London, son of the future George III.

Francois, Casanova’s brother, is a painter of famous battles, but is covered in debt.  His prodigality is such that only Giacomo will surpass it.  Although, it is true that Jean, born in 1730, comes in a close second, and is also a very good painter.  His needs oblige him to paint a few fakes, but he ends up as a real Director of the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Dresden, having escaped ten years of penal servitude on the galleys.  There is a sister who dances remarkably, and another brother, a subdeacon, who swindles better than he preaches, to complete the family photo of this tribe of strolling players.

The least gifted of them all seems, at first glance, to be Giacomo.  Until the age of eight-and-a-half, he passes for “clearly retarded”, as he says, himself.  His jaw hangs down a bit, probably because his nose bleeds all the time.  To cure him, an old witch locks him in a coffer, deafens him with incantations, caresses him all over, using mysterious balms, and promises him the apparition of a fairy for the following night, as the price of his silence.  He is, however, cured of his nose-bleeds.

His love life starts very early.  In those days, love follows an obligatory pathway via mature-age people –  mothers, confidantes, protectors – who are the only ones who can give access to the distant chambers where young beauties sit embroidering.

Mr de Malipiero is one of these.  He no longer has any teeth, but his appetite for young virgins is still intact.  This shocks no-one in the libertine XVIIIth Century.  Casanova, who is now fifteen and has quite a good talent for preaching, quickly becomes his confidant.  The palace is well-frequented, and soon the young Lucia partly abandons herself, while Angela resists, soon to be followed by two sisters, Nanette and Marton, who prove for the first time to our young seminarist that pleasure is greater in a threesome.

Theresa, who is presented to Mr de Malipiero by her mother, is a virgin.  As is the custom, he has to pay a few sequins for the pleasure of embracing her.

Malipiero, who pays immediately, goes into furious rages each time that the young lady refuses herself to him, encouraged by her mother, even though she has been paid.  Casanova gives advice to the old man, and some caresses to Theresa.  He writes that, one day:

“we had the idea of verifying the fundamental differences in our conformations”.

At the most interesting part of the exercise, while they are seated next to each other at a little table, blows from Malipiero’s cane start to rain down heavily, and Casanova, thrown out, loses his protector.

This is the beginning of a flight that will last as long as his life, and the beginning of adventures rich in mystery.  Necessity then gives this little low-born Venitian a mind so lively that, soon, he will find himself propulsed into the company of ministers and financiers, princes and kings.  Into the beds of marquises and duchesses as well, without neglecting scullery-maids and prostitutes.

His intelligence does not explain everything.  He also has a physique, and luck, which are so extraordinary that they are almost like fairy spells.  For example, after going to Rome, then Naples, on foot, he comes across a dupe who gives him his first fortune in payment for a fairly worthless secret:  how to increase mercury by adding lead and bismuth.

Protected by Cardinal Acquaviva, appreciated by the Pope, he compromises himself – for the last time through inexperience – by serving the interests of a young mistress disguised as an abbot.  Acquaviva has to get rid of him.  When he is asked his destination, so as to facilitate his trip, he answers the first thing that comes into his head:  Constantinople.

He then becomes a soldier, and experiences at Corfua one of the only great, unconsummated love affairs of his life.  Madame F., whom he doesn’t name out of discretion, inspires him with waves of sincere love.  His passion lasts, and is so strong that it gives him nausea.  When Madame F. asks him to wait longer, the waves crash down one night into froth, and land him on the couch of the impure Mellula.

He curses his weakness, but it is too late.  The seductress has innoculated him with a disease which keeps him in bed for two months, with no solid foods, drinking herbal teas.  Worse, the next day, he only has to look at Madame F. to read his betrayal in her eyes.

He returns sadly to Venice, has himself demobilised, and for the first time, tries his hand at cards.  But luck is against him, and he is obliged to find employment in an orchestra, playing the violin.

For consolation, he teases his compatriots, having the bells tolled at two o’clock in the morning, untying all the gondolas on the Grand Canal.  One Carnaval night, he even kidnaps a lady – with the help of eight companions – for they had to debark the husband and one of his friends on an island, and row back to a safe hiding-place.  Silencing her scrupules and fears, like a true Venitian, the lady consents to allow herself to be deliciously outraged by the band.  Fury of the husband.  The Grand Inquisitor intervenes, and the little band has to disperse.

To be continued.

The Count of Saint-Germain

The day after the Count of Saint-Germain’s revelations to Louis XV of France, the King, prodded by Madame de Pompadour who was intrigued by this story, asked the Lieutenant of Criminal Police to search the former hotel of Prosecutor Dumas.

Firstly, the mobile planks were discovered;  then the winding staircase;  then the underground room, and inside it, in the middle of a great number of astrological and chemical instruments, the body of Maitre Dumas, still fully-clothed.  It had been there for fifty-eight years, lying on the floor, with, beside it, an agate drinking cup and a broken crystal bottle.  One of the pieces of crystal still contained a fragment of opium.

***

The Count of Saint-Germain’s country of origin, his real name and his age are all unknown.  All that is known of him is that he lived in London around 1743, that he came to France in 1758, that, thanks to Madame de Pompadour whose friend he had become, he was received by Louis XV.  The King held him in such high estime that he used him as a secret agent.  We also know that he dealt in magic and alchemy, and that he officially ended his life in 1784, at the home of the Landgrave de Hesse.  I use the word “officially”, because, dead and buried in 1784, he participated in a Masonic meeting the following year, in 1785.

***

The Count of Saint-Germain did not actually claim, but let it be believed, that he had found the elixir of longevity.  He talked of Pontius Pilate and of Julius Caesar as if he had intimately known them.  He described in detail different feasts organised by Francois I of France, or Charlemagne’s meals.  After which, he would add, with a wink:

“You know, I read a lot of History books and I have an excellent memory!… “

***

The Count of Saint-Germain was certainly a Rose-Croix, and probably had a very high grade in the Order.  It has even been said that he was none other than Christian Rosenkreutz, the fraternity’s founder who, after having discovered the philosopher’s stone, had acquired immortality and had reappeared in History under different identities.  This seems a little far-fetched.

***

The Count of Saint-Germain possessed a real gift of clairvoyancy and knowledge which allowed him to accomplish wonderful things.  Madame de Hausset, lady-in-waiting to Madame de Pompadour, affirms, in her Memoires, that he succeeded in making enormous diamonds with several small ones, and that he could make fine pearls grow bigger.  As for Casanova, who met the Count several times, he recounts a strange story.

One day, Saint-Germain, at whose home he was, asked him for a 12 sols coin.  He put a sort of black seed on it, placed the coin on a hot coal, blew on it through a glass straw, making it incandescent, and said:

“Wait until it cools!… “

When it had done so, he smiled, saying:

“Take it now, and put it in your pocket.  It’s yours.”

Casanova took the coin.  It was in gold.

***

Modern specialists in alchemy, who have studied the Count of Saint-Germain, affirm that he wasn’t an imposter.  According to them, he knew the art of chemically reproducing precious stones (which would explain his colossal fortune), and that he was in possession of a “philosophical tincture” and, perhaps, of this famous elixir which bestows immortality.  The Countess de Vergy, who remembered having known the Count in Venice in 1700, was astounded to see him again, 58 years later, with exactly the same appearance.

***

The Count of Saint-Germain was a man of refined elegance.  His clothes were covered in stones.  He was of astounding culture.  It was said of him that he was the man who knew everything about everything.  As well as French, he spoke Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Arab, Chinese, German, English, Italian, Portugese and Spanish.  He could write with both hands at the same time without there being any difference in the two handwritings.  One day, the Count de Lamberg amused himself by dictating a scene from Zaire to him.  Saint-Germain wrote it on two sheets of paper at the same time.

***

No-one knew the Count of Saint-Germain intimately.  He didn’t attach himself to people, either men or women.  He refused invitations to lunch and dinner, and never received guests.  Sometimes, he disappeared for several years without anyone knowing where he was.  One day, he would reappear, as young as ever, just as elegant, just as smiling, and just as enigmatic.  From 1773 to 1776, for example, no-one knew what had become of him.  It is thought that he was in India and had stayed for a while in Tibet.

***

His tomb, from his official death and burial in 1784, is empty.  His “returns” have been signalled in 1785, as we have seen then, in 1790, he met Rudolph Graffier in Germany and made himself known to him.  In 1798, he reappeared in Vienna.  In 1835, a friend of Jules Janin affirms having met him in Paris.  In 1837, he was at Sceaux, etc…  In 1939, an American aviator whose aeroplane had crashed near a Tibetan monastery, recounted on his return to America that he had met, amongst the monks, a strange man who had said to him:

“I am the Count of Saint-Germain.  I will soon come back to Europe… “

Today, some people say that he is still alive and living in a palace in Venice, near the Grand Canal.

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